Alaska Airlines CEO anticipates ‘choppy May,’ issues mea culpa as flight cancellations rack up

May 15, 2022, 10:08 AM
(Flickr Creative Commons)
(Flickr Creative Commons)

Alaska Airlines is facing issues with contracting and a shortage of pilots, leaving travelers to deal with a surplus of flight cancellations.

“Simply put, we had 63 fewer pilots than what we planned for when we built our schedule. By the time we got this error, April and May schedules were bid on by our pilots and flight attendants, making it impossible to sufficiently adjust schedules to avoid cancellations,” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said in a video statement.

Minicucci acknowledged that the company has canceled about 50 of the approximate 1,200 flights Alaska Air operates a day.

“The month of May will continue to be choppy and we’re doing everything we can to minimize the impact on you. For June and beyond, we’ve made significant changes to ensure a high degree of reliability. This includes hiring and training 150 new pilots, 200 additional reservation agents, and 1100 new flight attendants,” the CEO continued.

“They’re having problems and they’ve been canceling flights left and right … but they got some problems because they didn’t expect travel to come back as quickly,” KIRO Newsradio’s John Curley explained.

Curley, a frequent Alaskan Airlines traveler, said while the company works out a new contract, partly in an effort to retain employees, cancelations are most likely to get worse.

Alaska Airlines’ pilot union is poised to authorize a strike by May 25, pending federal oversight approval.

Pilots close to striking over poor working conditions with Alaska Airlines

“We truly hope to reach an agreement so the public isn’t inconvenienced,” MEC Chairman Captain Will McQuillen told MyNowthwest. “To be clear, we’re not currently on strike, but if one is authorized by the National Mediation Board, it would have a substantial impact since all Alaska pilots would be on strike.”

“As we head into the summer, and travel starts heading back up again, people will be paying more for everything … So Alaska needs to get more pilots in there and have started a program in order to be able to train pilots, they have their own pilot training school,” Curley said.

Staffing issues continue at Alaska Airlines as pilots are leaving for better opportunities at other airline companies.

The issues have affected travel, as Monday saw 5% of the airport’s schedule cut by 9 a.m., according to FlightAware.

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here

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Alaska Airlines CEO anticipates ‘choppy May,’ issues mea culpa as flight cancellations rack up